First Nations protesters believe a mining company is making plans to forcibly remove them from a camp near a proposed coal mine in the Klappan region of northwestern B.C.
Tahltan Elders say Fortune Minerals could seek a court injunction and enforcement order as early as this weekend, but they vow to remain in the camp they have occupied for more than a month.
They oppose a 40-square-kilometre open-pit coal mine planned for the so-called Sacred Headwaters at Mt. Klappan — an area revered by First Nations, at the head of the Skeena, Nass and Stikine rivers.
Protesters are also incensed about a provincial government announcement of a mediator to resolve the dispute — noting the news release detailing the appointment said it would "allow the mine to proceed" — which they believe means approval of the long-disputed mine is a foregone conclusion.
Tahltan Central Council President Anita McPhee says they weren't consulted about bringing in a mediator.
"I'm so upset. It's probably the most upsetting step I've seen the province take,” she said.
"We're supposed to be trying to resolve this issue with the government based on trust and partnership and respect. But doing this, and sending out a press release without even telling us, you know, is not doing that."
Environment Minister Mary Polak says the government intended to meet with the Tahltan before the release went out.
"Unfortunately, we had a big mistake with respect to a media release, and that meant we had to move on the information around the appointment."
Polak says the mediator's goal is to allow the environmental assessment to continue, not push the mine project through.